The 7 chakras are a popular concept and are frequently mentioned in the modern-day yoga practice. In fact, you might have even practiced an entire yoga class dedicated to one of the seven chakras without fully understanding the meaning of these energy centers.
“Unblocking all 7 chakras”, “Activate the 7 chakras”, and “7 Chakra healing meditation” are just some of the leitmotifs that resonate in the spiritual circles. More in detail, what are the seven chakras? In this aritcle we’ll shed some light on this popular yet confusing question.
Nevertheless, as you get to better understand the 7 chakras, more questions might arise. What is the meaning of the seven chakras? Which are their functions, symbols and mantras? What are the best asanas for balancing the 7 chakras? Keep reading and find out more details about the 7 chakras!
What is a Chakra?
To understand what the seven chakras are, we first have to understand the yogic concept of prana. This term translates to “life force” or “vital principle” and describes all the manifest energy in the universe – present in both living beings and inanimate objects.
In humans, prana flows through energy channels called nadis. Purportedly, there are thousands of nadis in the energy body. However, the most important is the Sushumna Nadi. In English, it is called the “central channel” because it runs along the spine.
Chakras are points where different channels connect, creating an accumulation of prana, or, energy. For this reason, they are often referred to as energy centers. Additionally, the word chakra literally translates to “wheel” or “disk,” alluding to the vortex of energy believed to reside in each chakra’s location.
Although there are countless chakras in the energy body, ancient yogis were most interested in working with the chakras along the central channel. After all, they were intent on raising their energy and elevating their state of consciousness.
The Seven Chakra System
Although a variety of chakra systems were used in the past, the Seven Chakra System has become the most popular in the modern yoga world. It became popular in the 20th century when Sir John Woodroffe translated two Sanskrit texts to English, thus introducing the Seven Chakra theory to the West.
What Is the Color of the 7 Chakras?
It’s important noting that while the chakra system itself is ancient and deeply rooted in Indian spiritual traditions, the specific rainbow color associations that are commonly known and used today have emerged and gained popularity only in the modern era.
The modern color scheme associated with the chakras is often attributed to Christopher Hills, who presented his interpretation of the chakra colors in his book “Nuclear Evolution” published in 1977. This interpretation has since been widely adopted and popularized in various New Age and alternative healing practices.
However, diverging schools of thought have developed also in attributing Hill’s color definitions to each specific Chakra. For this reason, we do not feel like endorsing or recommending the modern Chakra color scheme commonly used. Therefore, the colors used in the images below are meant for illustrative purposes only.
On the other hand, the traditional Hindu chakra system links chakras to mantras, natural elements, and even deities. However, different interpretations have attributed the same chakra to different elements. For instance, Anahata is often associated with the air element, but some Tantric lineages have linked the heart chakra with the earth element, too.
What is the location of the 7 chakras?
The seven chakras are located along the central channel, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Specifically, the “lower” chakras are denser, relating to our connection with the physical world. Inversely, the “higher” chakras are more subtle and associated with our connection to the Divine.
Traditionally, yogis would direct the flow of energy upwards – from the lower to the higher energy centers – in order to expand their consciousness and realize oneness with the Divine.
1. Root Chakra (Muladhara)
The first energy center is Muladhara, meaning “root of existence”. It is located in the area of the perineum, at the base of the spine. In addition, Muladhara Chakra is associated with our connection to the earth, the physical body, and our fundamental need for survival.
When Muladhara Chakra is in a balanced condition, we feel grounded, stable, and safe. However, an imbalance in this chakra may lead to a sense of insecurity, fear, and attachment to material things.
Moreover, many authorative texts consider Muladhara as the foundation of the energy body. Therefore, yogic systems stress the importance of stabilizing this energy center. The energy of the earth, called telluric energy, nourishes the Root Chakra.
Seated postures like Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) and Baddha Konasana (Butterfly) bring this energy center closer to the earth and help us ground.
- Sanskrit Name: Muladhara
- Meaning: Root
- Location: Perineum
- Seed Mantra: Lam
- Symbol: Four-petaled lotus flower
- Element: Earth
- Asanas: Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold Pose), Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)
2. Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)
The second chakra lays in the pelvic region and is thus referred to as the Sacral Chakra. Its Sanskrit name is Svadhisthana, meaning “where the self is established”. Therefore, it connects with our sense of individuality, creativity, sensuality, and sexuality. Overall, it seemingly is the storehouse of our energy.
At the level of Svadhisthana Chakra, we constantly engage in the world through our five senses. When this chakra is in a state of balance, we feel energized, creative, and full of vitality. An imbalance at this chakra might lead to overindulgence and attachment to pleasurable sensations, such as cravings for food, intoxicants, or sexual experiences.
Due to its qualities of fluidity, movement, and creativity, Svadhisthana is often linked to the element of water. To balance and activate this chakra, practice Salabhasana (Locust Pose) and Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), as well as hip-opening postures.
- Sanskrit Name: Svadhisthana
- Meaning: Seat of the self
- Location: Pelvis
- Seed Mantra: Vam
- Symbol: Six-petaled lotus flower
- Element: Water
- Asanas: Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
3. Navel Chakra (Manipura)
Located just below the navel is the third energy center, called Manipura Chakra. The name comes from the Sanskrit words mani, meaning “gem”, and pura, meaning “city.” Therefore, we can consider this chakra as the “city of jewels” where we find the treasures of confidence, wellbeing, and inner strength.
Manipura Chakra also relates with our wants and desires, as well as the willpower necessary to achieve these. Due to its intensity, Manipura Chakra evokes the element of fire.
When Manipura Chakra is in a balanced state, we are full of courage, drive, and passion. On the other hand, losing our willpower and desire for life might be a sign of imbalance that calls on us to activate this energy center.
Since Manipura Chakra sits at the level of the navel, it is resonates with postures that engage and strengthen the core, such as Navasana (Boat Pose) and Trikonasana (Triangle Pose).
- Sanskrit Name: Manipura
- Meaning: City of jewels
- Location: Navel
- Seed Mantra: Ram
- Symbol: Ten-petaled lotus flower
- Element: Fire
- Asanas: Navasana (Boat Pose), Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
4. Heart Chakra (Anahata)
The fourth energy center is Anahata Chakra which means “unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten”. It refers to the concept of unstruck sound which is not made and cannot be heard unless one achieves the highest level of meditation.
Anahata Chakra rests in the middle of the chest and bears the qualities of the heart: unconditional love, compassion, acceptance, and gratitude. Because of its position at the center of the Seven Chakra System, it connects the lower three chakras (Root, Sacral, and Navel Cakra) with the higher three chakras (Throat, Third Eye, and Crown Chakra).
At the level of Anahata Chakra, we are moving away from the identification with the physical world and start to connect to more subtle aspects of existence. Thus, it usually associates with the element of air.
As a result, a balanced Heart Chakra promotes love, compassion, and forgiveness. Unconditioned by the lower self, we are able to accept everything without resistance, including the people or things we don’t like. On the other hand, if this energy center is out of balance, we might experience emotional instability, feelings of guilt, and judgment towards ourselves and others.
Since Anahata Chakra is located at the center of the chest, backbends like Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose) open and activate the energy flow of this center.
- Sanskrit Name: Anahata
- Meaning: Unstruck
- Location: Heart
- Seed Mantra: Yam
- Symbol: Twelve-petaled lotus flower, often depicted with two intersecting triangles forming a six-pointed star.
- Element: Air
- Asanas: Ustrasana (Camel Pose), Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)
5. Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
Visuddha or Vishuddhi is the Sanskrit name for the energy center located in the throat region, close to the cervical spine. The name comes from the Sanskrit shuddhi, which means “pure” and the root, vi, which intensifies the word. Therefore, vishuddhi means “especially pure”. Indeed, the Throat Chakra connects with the concepts of purity, refinement, and our ability to speak up and express ourselves.
We can regard Vishuddha chakra as the purification center because this is where the nectar of immortality splits into both pure and impure forms. Thus, it binds with the ideas of higher consciousness and discrimination. Because of its subtle nature, the Throat Chakra finds its element in the ether.
When Vishuddha Chakra is in a balanced state, we can connect with and share our own truth with purity and honesty. We are able to balance our needs and desires – the freedom to express and do what we want – with the duties and responsibilities we hold in life. On the contrary, when we lack space for creativity and expression, we might experience blockages at the level of Vishuddha Chakra.
Postures that nourish this energy center are Masyasana (Fish Pose) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand).
- Sanskrit Name: Vishuddha
- Meaning: Especially pure
- Location: Throat
- Seed Mantra: Ham
- Symbol: Sixteen-petaled lotus flower
- Element: Ether or Space
- Asanas: Masyasana (Fish Pose), Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)
6. Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)
The sixth chakra is located in the center of the forehead between the eyebrows. Its name is Ajna, meaning “perceive”, “command” or “beyond wisdom”. It is the chakra of intuition, insight, concentration, and self-realization. Moreover, beyond the five elements, Ajna Chakra relates to the higher mind (Buddhi) where all knowledge is stored.
When the Third Eye activates, we are able to transcend dualistic thinking and see things how they are. We elevate the level of consciousness and realize that the self and universe are one.
Postures associated with Ajna Chakra are Balasana (Child’s Pose) and Vrksasana (Tree Pose).
- Sanskrit Name: Ajna
- Meaning: Command
- Location: Third eye
- Seed Mantra: Om
- Symbol: Two-petaled lotus flower, often depicted as a stylized eye
- Element: Light
- Asanas: Balasana (Child’s Pose), Vrksasana (Tree Pose)
7. Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)
The final energy center in the Seven Chakra System is Sahasrara Chakra. In some yogic teachings, Sahasrara is described as being located precisely four finger widths above the crown of the head. Believed to be the terminal point for Sushumna Nadi, it is also said to be located within the crown of the head.
Often referred to as a “thousand-petaled lotus”, Sahasrara is the most subtle chakra in the system, relating to pure consciousness. When a yogi is able to raise their energy up to this point, they can experience the state of Samadhi (enlightenment). Accordingly, Sahasrara Chakra evokes oneness, transcendence, and is thought of as the “Gateway to the Divine”.
If we are stuck worrying about material things, this energy center is not active. We feel lost, confused, and don’t trust life. However, we can restore this trust and open up our connection to the Divine through the ancient practices of contemplation and meditation.
By raising above matter, we understand that everything is one – thus realizing the goal of yoga. We recommend using postures such as Sirsasana (Headstand) and Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold) in the asana practice to bring awareness to this energy center.
- Sanskrit Name: Sahasrara
- Meaning: Thousand petaled
- Location: Crown
- Seed Mantra: Om
- Symbol: A thousand-petaled lotus flower, often depicted with a radiant sun or full moon in the center
- Element: Consciousness or the Divine
- Asanas: Sirsasana (Headstand), Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold)
How to align, balance, and activate the 7 Chakras
After exploring “what are the 7 chakras”, we can now have a look at how to align and balance them. In other words, how to activate the seven chakras in the human body when they are blocked. While certain yoga postures can help us connect to the energy of a specific chakra, the traditional approach to unblocking all 7 chakras is through meditation.
This is why many techniques for balancing the seven chakras use different types of meditation. Ancient yogis would visualize a deity in the area of the energy center, chant the corresponding Bija Mantra (seed syllable), or use Yantra (geometric shapes) to ignite the energy at a specific chakra.
Today, there are a variety of chakra healing practices that use different crystals or stones, colors, and affirmations. They are a modern invention of the 20th century. While they might be inspiring and helpful, they arguably are not very traditional. Therefore, we recommend sticking to yoga and meditation as they main tools for activating and balancing the 7 chakras.
We hope this article gave you a deeper understanding of what the seven chakras are. Last but not least: Whether you want to use the chakras in your asana or meditation practice, the most important thing is cultivating your awareness at the level of each energy center.
If you want to learn more, read our Complete Guide to Understanding the Chakras. Also, to put your knowledge into practice, join one of our Yoga and Meditation Retreats and attend high-quality classes inspired by the chakras.